Why the Workforce Finds Some Job Transitions Undesirable

Strategies for Job Transitions are key to reducing retrenchment and unemployment. Savvy HR practitioners will need to identify which positions are most threatened and how these workers can be productive elsewhere in the organisation. However, not all opportunities are appealing to the workforce.

Viable and Desirable Job Transitions

A job transition is viable for employers when relevant transferable skills are already in place and only minor reskilling or training is required. For workers, it’s most viable when the move results in an increase in wages and career opportunity. If training is required for a new position and fails to increase wages, workers are less motivated to pursue this path. If however age is a factor, perhaps reduced wages is coupled with less physical requirements which may then make the new job viable for a particular market segment.

According to the WEF report

“in order to be able to say that a job transition opportunity represents a viable job transition option, we require a pairing of a starting job and target job that involves:

(1) a medium or high level of job-fit and

(2) realistic leaps in expected years of education or work experience.”

Undesirable Job Transitions

Within the full range of possible job transitions, there are a number of transitions that may be viable options but which are unlikely to represent sustainable or attractive options for the individuals having to change jobs.

Two key factors contribute extensively to desirability:

1. The long-term stability of the target job

Some theoretically viable job transitions are unsustainable and undesirable simply because the number of people projected to be employed in this job category is set to decline. For example, the WEF report finds that in the medium term, a number of current occupations in the United States are forecast to shrink or fully disappear due to technological change.

In the WEF Report, researchers used US employment figures for 2016 as well as projections of expected employment change by 2026 from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics to identify job transitions that are undesirable due to declining target job numbers.

A move into a declining job field, unless the individuals are close to retirement, will not provide workers with the job security they require. HR practitioners could consider age thresholds for different interventions and solutions. This is not to limit workers, but to find solutions that could be viable, more appealing to different groups as opposed to a ‘one size fits all’ approach.

2. Improving the Standard of Living

Even if the move to a new job opportunity appears viable,  its capacity to financially maintain or improve the standard of living to which the prospective job mover is currently accustomed to is crucial. If they must drop their standard of living – they won’t be motivated.

Job transitions in which job movers experience a protracted fall in wages are unlikely to motivate further reskilling efforts or increases in productivity and job satisfaction by the individuals concerned.

Viable Job Transitions

In summary, according to the WEF Report, a viable job transition opportunity represents a desirable job transition option, when there’s a pairing of a starting job and target job that involves:

(1) stable long-term prospects, i.e. a job transition into an occupation with job numbers that are forecast not to decline; and

(2) wage continuity (or increases), i.e. a level of employee remuneration for tasks performed in the new job that does not fall below a level that would allow the individuals concerned to maintain their current standard of living.

Reference: Job Transitions

Towards a Reskilling Revolution: A Future of Jobs for All: World Economic Forum, January 2018

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